Peter King wrote:
Coach of the Year is a mystery to me this morning. Bill Belichick is doing one of his best coaching jobs going back to being a $25-a-week gopher for Ted Marchibroda in Baltimore; 41-7 over the Ravens, Gronkless, in Baltimore? Amazing. And you know the candidates, all good ones—Ron “Relevant” Rivera, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll, Chip Kelly, Joe Philbin. But Bruce Arians has to be on any list. The Cardinals, 58-0 losers at Seattle last year, broke Seattle’s 14-game home winning streak. Perhaps more important for the rest of the NFC, Arizona burst the bubble of Seattle’s Pacific Northwest invincibility. We all thought the Seahawks would breeze to the Super Bowl in New Jersey with two easy home wins. Now they’re not even guaranteed the top seed in the conference; two San Francisco wins and a Seattle loss at home to the Rams Sunday would make San Francisco the top seed and Seattle No. 5.
Not likely, of course. But possible, because of the Arizona Cardinals.
“What I told the team this week was I didn’t care about the record, I didn’t care about winning the division,” said Arians from Seattle after the 17-10 upset of the Seahawks. “I cared about winning both lines of scrimmage in this game. And we did. The Seahawks and 49ers are both big, strong, physical teams on their fronts. They’re bullies. That’s football. And that’s what we have to learn to be. I think we showed today we can be big and strong and physical. We can beat the No. 1 seed in the league. We can beat the best team in our division. And we did.’’
I asked Arians about the odds his team faces to make the playoffs, and whether that has impacted the last two or three weeks. For Arizona to make the playoffs now, even at 10-5 this morning, the Cards must beat San Francisco at home Sunday and have one of two other things happen: The Niners must lose to 4-10 Atlanta tonight, or the Saints must lose to 4-11 Tampa Bay at home next Sunday. Not … likely.
“I stopped worrying about that crap about three weeks ago,” said Arians. “Once I learned we could get to 11-5 and we might still not make it, I said, ‘Screw it. Let’s just get to 11-5 and let the chips fall where they may.’ Whatever happens, we’re letting everyone in our division know we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
Arians is a funny playcaller. If Carson Palmer throws four interceptions, as he did in Seattle, Arians is going to tell him to keep firing. Down 10-9 at the Seattle 31 with just under six minutes left, the Cards wanted to isolate one of their receivers on cornerback Byron Maxwell, who just became a starter earlier this month. Arians called “81 Go,” with three receivers running for the end zone, hoping to get one of them singled. That, on this play, would be Michael Floyd, on Maxwell. The Cards kept seven in to protect against the Seattle rush, Palmer had time, and, in Arians’ words, “If it was a fielder’s choice, I wanted Carson to take Floyd.” And Palmer did, throwing a beautifully placed ball into Floyd’s arms on the left side of the end zone. Touchdown.
“What’d you say to the team after the game?” I said.
“Not much,” said Arians. ” ‘Merry Christmas. Great team win.’ “